San Diego County Fair begins run – U-T San Diego

— The San Diego County Fair got off to a roaring start on opening day Friday with firefighters from throughout the county showing off modified cars that will take part in a charity demolition derby.

Thousands of visitors were lining up waiting for the doors to open shortly before 4 p.m. The fair’s theme this year is “A Fair to Remember: a Celebration of World Fairs and Balboa Park,” which recognizes the centennial celebration of the Panama-California Exposition at Balboa Park.

As the crowds started to pour in, Oceanside firefighter Cody Spinos was at the Del Mar Arena putting the finishing touches on his car in preparation for Saturday’s derby.

“It’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, nothing compares to being in the arena,” said Spinos, who competed in last year’s derby.

Related: Your guide to the San Diego County Fair | San Diego County Fair 2015

To compete, each of the firefighters has to raise at least $1,000. That money goes to the Burn Institute to support fire prevention education and burn-survivor programs for children and adults throughout San Diego and Imperial counties.

The firefighters were on hand Friday to show off the vehicles and pose for pictures.

“This is going to be so good,” said Maline Star of Valencia. She said her family couldn’t wait for Saturday’s derby.

The family runs three vending booths at the fair and works at fairs throughout the country. Star said the San Diego County Fair is “the most beautiful fair we have in the West Coast.”

The fair is one of the largest in the country attracting about 1.4 million people last year, an average of about 60,000 a day.

The theme exhibit this year is “It All Started At A Fair,” featuring iconic innovations that first appeared in fairs. One of the attractions is a 1960s Ford Mustang. The 1964 Mustang was unveiled at the New York World’s Fair.

A hundred years ago, San Diego’s Chamber of Commerce organized the 1915 exposition to bring attention and money to the first American West Coast port of call north of the newly completed Panama Canal.

The Chitwood family who attended the fair Friday said they wanted to make sure to be among the first to experience the annual event.

“It’s her first time, so we just wanted to have an opportunity to let her see everything,” Chea Chitwood said pointing to her toddler, 19-month-old Zoey.

The Fire Expo and Demolition Derby on Saturday starts at 10 a.m. at the Del Mar Arena. The fair continues 11 a.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays through July 5. Closed Mondays and June 9 and 16.

For more information, visit sdfair.com.